Race Report: 2007 Flying Monkey Marathon

In anticipation of the best (and toughest) marathon around, the Harpeth Hills Flying Monkey Marathon, which takes place in about five weeks, I thought I would publish an old race report that never made it up on the blog. If you don't know about this marathon, you have to visit the website and check it out. The marathon takes place in my favorite place to train in Nashville -- Percy Warner Park. It is sublimely hilly, nicely shaded, and a kind of shelter from the two things we deal with as runners in the city -- heat and traffic. 

These things are great, but what makes the race truly special is the community of runners that attend the race, the great potluck, the local beer. Race director Trent Rosenbloom pours a ton of energy into doing it the right way. It's a celebration of what we love about running -- namely, working hard then eating and drinking with friends afterwards. This report was not from my best race or fastest race -- just from an ordinary plain old race. Hope you enjoy!

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Flying Monkey Marathon, 2007

I told myself before the race that I would "run easy" and be happy with anything under 3:00. Well, why I thought that it would be possible to run 26.2 miles "easy" in PWP is beyond me. Especially at 6:50 pace. As most of you know, my training hasn't been great since this spring, so I thought it would be pointless to get into a battle with Chuck Engle. However, I figured that 2nd place was wide open. So, these were the goals I had coming into the race. 

1) Run easy and enjoy the park. 
2) Run under 3 hours. 
3) Get 2nd place. 

Looking back at them now, I realize that goal #1 and goals #2 and #3 are kind of in intellectual tension with each other. The ideas don't overlap completely. The marathon would write this tension all over my body over the last six miles. It would inject it into my calves, wash over my stomach, deaden my mind, settle in the joints of my hips. Whoever doubted the relation between body and mind has never run a marathon (are you listening, Descartes?). 

The hills had their say.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I did a good job of going out easy. Steve Gordon (a friend who bandited the first 20 miles as a last hard effort before his goal marathon in Huntsville) and I ran the first few miles over 7 minute pace. Chuck and a couple other guys--Pete Mueller and a guy from Colorado running his 87th marathon headed out a little quicker. I figured the other two would come back (see goal #3), and it is a long race, so no worries (see goal #1). After a few miles, Steve and I settled into race-pace rhythm (see goal #2), and it felt faster than I expected (try not to think about goal #1). We passed the Colorado guy going up 9-mile hill the first time. Steve and I chatted, enjoying the early miles of the marathon, the fog in the fall leaves, the perfect temps for running. 

We came through halfway in 1:29:18. I was starting to feel a bit better and was happy to be on sub-3:00 pace. I thought to myself--once more! And picked up the pace a bit. Pretty soon I could see Pete ahead through the trees. Goal #3 in sight. I think I let my competitive juices outrun my notions about taking it easy (I also thought back to last year, about how I ran this section of the course hard, and it worked well for me), so I started clicking off the miles a bit faster. I caught Pete and passed him around the 17 mile mark and began to have visions of running a monster negative split. 

Then came the hill at mile 19. Trent. You bastard. It sapped my momentum, sucked my verve, destroyed my enthusiasm, and instantly transformed my pleasant run through the park into a marathon-death march. (It wasn't just the hill--it was how hard I'd been running since mile 13. I hit mile 20--at the top of the hill--in 2:10, which means I'd averaged 6:00 pace from miles 13-20. You have every right to ask me--what happened to goal #1?). 

So, there I was. Hurting. With 6.2 miles to go and 50 minutes to break three. What pace is that? 8 minute miles, or thereabouts. I would use almost all of those 50 minutes to get home. It wasn't pretty, but I didn't walk, for whatever that's worth. There were waves of fatigue that I fought through. Pete slowly made up ground on me, but his fast start doomed him to a miserable last few miles as well. Goal #1 was out the window. All that were left were numbers 2 and 3, and frankly I didn't care too much about them either. I counted the miles, put one foot in front of the other, and made it home in 2:58:17. 

Lesson learned. Marathons are not easy. Especially in Percy Warner. It's better if you train for them. But I felt proud for pushing through. It was great hanging out after the race, and awesome to see Trent finishing after all the hard work and crappy asthma he's had to deal with. I even had a good talk with Chuck, who had graciously broken my course record. 

Now, it's time to rest, work on the dissertation [Yes, I have finished it now, thanks for asking!], and let this body of mine heal.


  1. It's always fun to read someone else's race reports.

    Conflicting goals? We need them as an emotional safety net sometimes! (Sometimes) So much is invested in marathon training, it is essential. I like to think that if you can't make your time goal, (or PR goal), you can figure it out early enough to move on to goal #1 :) (Which should also include some random rainbows and butterflies while you jog your way through the scenery).

    You hint at not being trained for it, but that was an epic second half!

    1. Thanks for the comment, Raina! I could get better at goal #1, ha.

  2. Ok so I had already decided that there is no way I could pull off #1 AND #2 and so had pretty much mentally given up on #2 as a possibility for me this year. But your description of the hill at 19 reminded me that #1 is probably not really possible either. Wtf was I thinking signing up for this dumb thing again?

    1. It's the Trent trick. You're all like, this is Trent's marathon, how hard could it really be? And then wham: it's really hard.

    2. I remember thinking I was taking it pretty easy in '08 and then having to have a fairly serious meeting with myself around mile 22-23.

  3. Pretty tough to run easy and enjoy the park, when you're chasing a sub 3. Especially if you go out to fast;) Yep, conflicting goals.


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